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The Federal Circuit follows regional circuit law to decide district judge reassignment on remandAugust 1, 2006

Microsoft Corporation (‘Microsoft’) petitioned the Federal Circuit to have its remanded patent infringement case with Eolas Technologies (‘Eolas’) reassigned to a different district court judge. The Federal Circuit granted Microsoft’s petition to appeal the district court’s denial and reversed the district court’s denial to reassign the case.On remand to the Northern District of Illinois, the court denied Microsoft’s motion to have the case reassigned to a different judge. The court stated that the Local Rule permitting reassignment had become ‘dormant’ as a result of the Seventh Circuit Rule 36 and therefore did not apply. The district court also interpreted the Federal Circuit’s remand order that ‘the district court may reconsider its findings’ to mean that the same judge should reconsider the findings. The Federal Circuit defers to regional circuit laws for issues unrelated to patent law, such as reassignment, and applies the law in the same manner as the circuit court would apply the law. Therefore, the Seventh Circuit’s Rule 36 requiring reassignment to a different district court judge controlled in this case. The Seventh Circuit rule requires reassignment after a post-trial reversal unless the remanding court specifies assignment back to the same judge to avoid any bias or mindset the judge may have developed during the first trial. This differs from the majority of circuits which require proof of such bias or demonstration of other circumstances warranting the reassignment to a different judge. While the Federal Circuit routinely applies the decisions from the regional circuit courts when a legal issue is unrelated to patent law, this case was unusual in that the court applied the Seventh Circuit’s local rules, not a prior case precedent. Although this case demonstrates the minority view in applying the Seventh Circuit reassignment law, it demonstrates that the Federal Circuit will defer to both regional circuit decisions and rules with regard to non-patent issues.To read the complete decision, log on to

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